Mr. Perry's Theorytalk -- Sicilian Defense: English Attack with 6...e6 and 7. Be2.
Welcome to my humble blog. The purpose of this blog is to serve as a home for my chess ideas and preparation. I hope that by writing them as a blog, my vague understandings will better consolidate into something usable, and that players more experienced or innovative than myself will contribute to it (especially in pointing out my inevitable mistakes). I don't expect my blog to be popular, as I'm no one of great importance, but hopefully one or two bright minds will find their way here.
The current object of my theorizing is the following position from the perspective of both White and Black.
Here, White has taken a less aggressive approach than he could have otherwise (with alternate moves such as f4, a4, and an early g4), opting for a solid, well-developed position with clear potency for an attack. This has many benefits but comes with the minor consequence that black can now choose how play continues from here. That said, I see four broad ideas for black.
1) Black Promptly Castles Kingside
This is a very natural development for Black but one which White must welcome, for here White gains the very strong and simple plan of walking the h & g pawns up the board, assaulting the Black King.
In this situation, it's imperative that White understands the role each of his pieces must play. The two rooks, Queen, and dark-squared bishop are his offensive force while the two knights and light-squared bishop are his defensive force. The offensive force is more than enough to acquire mate in numerous variations, while the defensive force should, in many cases, readily exchange themselves for Black's own attacking pieces.
White's attack here is very strong. Even Stockfish 7 (depth 15), following its recommended moves from this position, fails to realize the strength of White's attack until it's too late.
Personally as Black, I would avoid the variation of castling Kingside early. Although Black is not entirely lost in this position, he does resign himself to playing defense against White's attack and having to avoid many mating threats along the way.
2) Black Allows a Bizarre Exchange.
The second idea Black might have is developing more of his Queenside pieces before castling into very natural looking positions, but this allow white to play a surprise exchange with Ndxb5!
In this variation, White has exchanged his two knights for a rook and two pawns, an exchange which Stockfish rates as nearly equal, with White having his usual slight advantage. Funnily enough, the only grandmaster game I know of where this was played was with Hikaru Nakamura, playing as White; however, he forced a draw by repetition by moving his knight between a7 and b5 (the Black Queen forced to move between c7 and c6 respectively), and so we can only guess how the game would have unfolded from there. But in any case, White's passed pawns on the Kingside should give him a clear advantage in the endgame, and so White would only need to focus on simplification to watch his advantage grow. I myself would be happy with White in this position.
3) Black Plays Nbd7 Followed by a d5 Pawn-break
The d5 pawn-break is a common and important motif in the Sicilian Defense, often signifying Black has equalized the position, and this variation is no exception. What follows from here is a complicated and sharp situation focused on piece play, where one mistake from either side could easily spell resignation, and it's not always obvious what that correct move is, without prior study.
Although many moves could be played from here, I would recommend the strong move 14. Nf5! for White, which utterly stops Black from being able to castle Kingside. As a result, Black often castles Queenside instead! This leaves Black's King dangerously exposed, but allows him to make many equally dangerous threats against the White King, keeping the position sharp and unclear. An example of this variation can be seen below:
I would play this variation as both Black and White, since prior study here would give either player a serious advantage.
4) Immediate d5 pawn-break
This variation is distinct from the idea above, because, since Black does not have a knight on d7, White now has the option to push his pawn to e5 rather than exchange on d5!
From here, play can continue in any number of ways. White can castle either Kingside or Queenside with equal safety, and what follows is a much more calm battle for the center, being significantly less sharp than the third idea presented in this blog. In the above position, White's most promising option for an advantage is perhaps a4, shortly followed by castling Kingside, engaging with Black directly in a Queenside battle. If White tries to continue with a Kingside attack here, Black could now easily undermine this by creating a much stronger attack of his own on the Queenside and gaining the initiative. Although White's pushed e5 pawn gains some space, it has the unexpected cost of slowing down any Kingside attack plans and results in a position which looks a lot like a French Defense where Black is doing great.
As a result, Black's position would be preferable here (not necessarily better, but preferable in my own humble opinion), though the temptation of playing this as White would no doubt be the initial trap that the e5 pawn push sets. Playing an opening that's both solid and full of traps is always a welcome perk.
That will conclude our brief exploration into this position. I hope that any readers (including myself!) learned something from it, and I welcome both critique and commentary.